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Day 30: All Too Real

September 7, 2010

Our current city of residence is a Friday Night Lights kind of town: high school football is king.  All three of the main local stations air recap shows on Friday & Saturday nights.  The local newspaper dedicates an entire month of pre-season previews to all the prominent programs.  Those who climbed the ladder and beat the odds, like Joey Porter and David Carr, are placed on a pedestal.  The star athletes are local celebrities based solely on “potential.”

That’s why the top story locally on Labor Day is the paralysis of a 16-year-old boy.

Tyler Schilhaber, starting quarterback at Bakersfield’s Independence High School, was involved in an accident over the weekend while riding an ATV at Pismo Beach.  Schilhaber suffered serious head and neck injuries and remains in a medically-induced coma in intensive care.  His doctors are still uncertain of future possibilities, but at the very least, he will be unable to move from the chest down.

The world of sports is full of these tragic tales of lost livelihood.  Some strike us as comically absurd, such as Jeff Kent’s offseason motorcycle incident. Others border on the stunningly sudden, like Boston University hockey player Travis Roy. There are those that don’t sit right because they were all together unnecessary, as was the case with professional wrestler Owen Hart.

It certainly hits harder when it’s a child.  How often do you see a career-ending injury become more devastating due to the fact that the victim failed to have a back-up plan?  As terrified as I am of a birth defect impacting our first child, I had never thought of the potential impact of a life-threatening event affecting a perfectly healthy adolescent.

In this case, by all accounts, Schilhaber took his studies very seriously and sports a 3.8GPA.  Once he is stabilized, he will have ample time and support from his community to make adjustments as an incredibly inspiring citizen.  What college would turn down his application with the essay he could submit?  Assuming his mental abilities remain intact following stabilization, his potential to lead a long, fulfilling life is high.

But for every Tyler Schilhaber story that can still have a happy ending, there are dozens we never hear about who fade into the vicious cycle.  It makes you wonder, why is this case any more significant than any other children suffering a similar fate?

DR

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